Time is running out for both sides. Mumbai Indians have lost three on the bounce and need to win every single game to get to 16 points, largely considered a safe zone. Punjab Kings are also on the same boat, but with the confidence of having notched up a tight win over Sunrisers Hyderabad in a low-scoring contest in Sharjah two nights ago.
Mumbai's go-to batters in recent times, Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan, have suffered a form slump. Kishan's strike rate of 86 is the lowest for a player who has made a minimum of 50 runs this season. As for Yadav, he has managed just single-digit scores in the last four matches.
Meanwhile, Hardik Pandya's workload is being managed to such an extent that he isn't a shoo-in as an allrounder, which is hampering team balance. Krunal Pandya has bowled his full quota in just one of the three games so far in UAE, while his batting form hasn't been noteworthy yet. This has meant there's simply way too much pressure on Rohit Sharma, Quinton de Kock and Kieron Pollard in the batting department.
Kings have tried to fix things that aren't broken. They dropped Chris Gayle for the first game of phase two, only to bring him back for the next two. They signed Aiden Markram to lend all-round depth, but the South African hasn't bowled a single over so far. They signed Adil Rashid despite having two impressive legspinners in Ravi Bishnoi and M Ashwin, both of whom have turned in match-winning performances. Ishan Porel, a benchwarmer for a better part of two seasons, was back on the bench after a lone outing.
The batting hinges heavily on Mayank Agarwal and KL Rahul, the bowling on Arshdeep Singh and Mohammed Shami. Such has been their shuffling of personnel and batting order that Harpreet Brar, who turned in a magical match-winning performance earlier in the season, neither has a fixed batting spot nor is considered a frontline spin option. Shahrukh Khan, a big-ticket uncapped signing, can't seem to get a game. It's time the Kings find a combination and stick by it.
Given all this, by the end of the contest, one team will be left searching for their calculators.
In the news
Hardik has returned to the XI after missing the first two games but didn't bowl on Monday. The team management hasn't explained the reason behind this but insist they're merely managing his workload. Hardik has been named in India's T20 World Cup squad as a genuine allrounder. Chief selector Chetan Sharma believes he should "bowl in every single game" at the tournament. Only time will tell if Hardik's lack of bowling time will be a hindrance.
The Kings have everyone fit and available for selection.
Mumbai Indians: 1 Rohit Sharma (capt), 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 Ishan Kishan, 4 Suryakumar Yadav, 5 Hardik Pandya, 6 Kieron Pollard, 7 Krunal Pandya, 8 Adam Milne/Nathan Coulter-Nile, 9 Rahul Chahar, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, 11 Trent Boult
Punjab Kings: 1 KL Rahul (capt, wk), 2 Mayank Agarwal, 3 Chris Gayle, 4 Aiden Markram, 5 Nicholas Pooran, 6 Deepak Hooda, 7 Harpreet Brar, 8 Ravi Bishnoi, 9 Nathan Ellis/Chris Jordan, 10 Arshdeep Singh, 11 Mohammed Shami
Jasprit Bumrah was brought back for a second over inside the powerplay against Royal Challengers specifically to dismiss Virat Kohli. Mumbai is heavy on match-ups, and perhaps they may have noticed Mayank Agarwal has been out to Bumrah twice in two games without scoring a run. Give him the first over.
Nearly half of Gayle's dismissals in T20s this year - 13 dismissals in 27 innings - have been to spin. His balls per dismissal against spin stands at 16.5, his worst in a calendar year. So, the mantra is simple: when he comes on, Mumbai will get their spinners on. One way to offset this is to surprise the opposition by opening with Gayle. That will mean Agarwal drops down to three, given Rahul has been prolific against Mumbai. His 51-ball 77 last season in the UAE helped Kings force their game into a Super Over before they prevailed against Mumbai.
Stats that matter
Mumbai Indians are one of only two teams to have a scoring rate of less than seven an over in the middle overs this season
Rohit's 163 runs against spin is the third-most for a player this season. He strikes against them at 135.
Since IPL 2020, the Kings have lost six out of eight games where Rahul has been dismissed below 25.